Seal of approval for sanctuary as pups return to wild
TOBY the seal is one of seven that have been returned to the waters at Culleenamore, near Strandhill, Co Sligo, to rejoin their colony.
But the puppy seal almost didn't leave. He was abandoned by his mother when she was frightened off by jet-skiers. So he was initially reluctant to return to the sea when his only friends, humans, sent him back to it.
Neil Walton who, with daughters Ellie Rose (4) and Alana (6), rescued Toby from the dunes, said: "We found him shortly after his birth and he had already been abandoned by his mother. He had the umbilical cord still attached.
"We brought him home and cared for him for a couple of days until (he was transferred) to the Dingle Wildlife and Seal Sanctuary in Co Kerry."
Neil added: "He followed my two daughters all around the house when we had him. It's like he was treating them as seals like him."
The Dingle sanctuary helped Toby and the other seals to recover before they were driven back to Sligo at the weekend to be returned to the waters where they were found. All seven seals were rescued after being abandoned during the summer. It was the largest number of seals ever returned in the same area at one time.
Six of them – named Brian, Peanut, Salt, Pepper, Coco and Sugar – returned happily to the sea as they were waved off by a crowd of 250 who braved the rain and wind on Saturday.
But Toby at first refused to leave. Eventually, left in a quiet spot away from the crowd, he slid into the sea to head for the colony he has never known.